I tend to like those politicians who are lobbying for a balanced budget amendment (hereafter BBA). They seem genuinely interested in restraining the growth of the administrative welfare state. But I also think that the idea of amending the Constitution to require a balanced budget is unwise and impractical.
There are several problems with the concept of a BBA. First, it seems impossible to write an amendment that would prohibit government's propensity to use Enronesque accounting methods. At the very least a BBA would have to have the prolixity of a legal code to keep things honest.
Second, multiplying procedural rules is not an adequate way to restore or perpetuate limited government. The people need to vote for representatives who are wise, patriotic, and just. If those representatives are found to lack these characteristics once in office, and this has sadly always been all too common, the people must be motivated by what Madison called a "vigilant and manly spirit" to hold them accountable or vote the bums out.
If we must have a BBA, we are admitting that free, representative government is impossible. A BBA, like term limits, is an admission that we cannot trust the people's representatives to govern or the people to keep those representatives honest.
Our Constitution is perfectly sound. The enumerated powers granted to government in the Constitution are perfectly adequate to deal with the fiscal situation. Elections, the separation of powers, legislative checks and balances, and in extreme cases impeachment, are more than sufficient means to hold our representatives accountable to their oaths of office.
Those proposing a BBA have laudable motives--they wish to restrain out of control government spending. But they should focus on doing so by a return to constitutionalism rather than unnecessarily amending the Constitution.